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3. Ideas about the Role of Heaven in Production Techniques in Song Yingxing’s Heaven’s Work in Opening Things (Tiangong kaiwu)

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Chapter Summary

The Tiangong kaiwu is a famous seventeenth-century Chinese book. This chapter throws more light on what Song Yingxing meant by the expression 'heaven's work' (tiangong) by examining what he thought about the role of heaven in man's acquisition and use of techniques. His basic idea was that while man plays various roles in producing many things, it is really heaven that lies behind all this. The chapter shows that heaven's role of taking care of man appears prominently in his discussion of production techniques in the Tiangong kaiwu. Examination of Song Yingxing's ideas about 'heaven's work' also sheds light on his general ideas about and attitude toward production techniques: the nature and the role of such techniques; their place within the corpus of man's, and scholars', knowledge; and the relationship between production techniques and other human activities and knowledge, and the relationship between such techniques and natural phenomena.

Keywords: heaven's work; natural phenomena; production techniques; seventeenth-century Chinese book; Song Yingxing; Tiangong kaiwu



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